illustration of an open-faced monkey's paw with a skull design on the palm

The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs

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What differentiates Mr. White and Sergeant Morris in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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The sergeant-major is world-weary and Mr. White is quite unworldly.

Sergeant–Major Morris arrives at the White home after having traveled around the world. He has spent twenty-one years in military service; much of his time has been India, where he procured a monkey's paw from a fakir. It is with much chagrin that the sergeant mentions this talisman when he visits the White's home. There Mrs. White remarks, “He don’t look to have taken much harm,” but when the sergeant speaks in "grave tones" of his ownership of the paw, his teeth clatter against the glass from which he drinks.

Despite the sergeant-major's tone and his apparent discomfort in recalling what he has experienced, Mr. White naïvely asks the soldier, "What do you keep it [the paw] for?" The sergeant tells his old friend that he does not know; he had hoped to sell it, but people want to try it out first. Then, the soldier tosses it on the fire but Mr. White retrieves it. His friend tells him, 

“I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don’t blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire again like a sensible man.”

But, the unworldly Mr. White, who has demonstrated his recklessness as he played chess with his son, is intrigued by the monkey's paw. So, he keeps it and makes a wish without considering the effects of the wording of this wish. Tragically, Mr. White and his wife suffer terribly from his naïve and reckless nature, a nature which later causes tragic results.

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